Intuitive design - ensuring your systems are easy to use (Article)

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Derek Stockley is a training and performance consultant based in Melbourne, Australia.

This free article examines the impact of intuitive design on customer satisfaction and excellent service delivery.

Ensure that all processes are as simple as possible

In the hot Australian environment, air conditioners are fairly common these days. Recently I drove to Queensland and consequently stayed in a number of motels and cabins in summer conditions.

The first task when entering the room was to locate the remote control and turn on the air conditioner. In all cases, locating the control was easy (a good start!). However, quickly achieving a cool temperature was not.

Basically you want to turn the unit on and adjust the temperature setting up or down. So you want an on/off button, an up arrow and a down arrow.

To these basic functions, manufacturers add a variety of extra functions e.g. time delay, night operation, etc.

I do not have a problem with extra functions as they can be useful in some situations. However, people want to access the basic functions quickly and easily.

I really appreciated the air conditioner remotes clearly marked with an on/off button, up/down arrows and a visual display that showed the temperature I had set. I did not appreciate remotes that hid these basic functions from me.

So what does this story mean to you and me. We should:

  • Design products and processes that are logical and easy to use.

  • Base such processes on existing habits and ways of doing things (web site usability studies continually show that people prefer web designs and navigation systems to be similar to other web sites - users do not want to learn different navigation systems).

  • Be consistent - do it one way in all systems (e.g. the basic Microsoft cut and paste methods apply in a wide variety of different software packages).

  • Make it so simple that people can 'work it out' without having to refer to the 'instruction manual'.

  • Guide people though the process, keeping to the basics but offering more complex transactions as options to be used if they are needed/wanted.

  • Test and retest our products and processes using independent people as much as possible. Asking others to try the product/process is a simple but effective method. People who have not been directly involved in the development process quickly identify problem areas as they fail to successfully complete the task.


Intuitive design should be the aim of every business and manager. Products and services should be presented in a way that logically guides the customer to use the product correctly or to transact their business quickly and efficiently without error. Often it is easily achieved if the right thinking and effort is applied to the design and testing process.

Products and services need to be rigourously tested and evaluated.

In our modern society, too many people experience increasing levels of frustration every day. If your business can make things easy and hassle free, customers will respond positively.

Related reading

Good design is an issue that is also covered in these related articles:

Font size, colour and location affect readability - explores the importance of choosing the right font size and colour for printed material and computer screens.

Are your business systems arrogant? - highlights an example of business arrogance in system design. It raises questions about the design of systems to suit business rather than customer needs.

Designing systems and processes that work - many managers are unaware of the design faults in their systems and processes. If you want to avoid major problems, then this free article by Derek Stockley may well save your customers immense frustration and dramatically improve your bottom line.

Achieving excellent service design - Derek Stockley discusses the importance of excellent service design.

The importance of auditing and monitoring your business systems - emphasises the importance of constantly monitoring and auditing every important business system.

Although this article is specifically about business management, other articles under the following topics may also be useful:

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How important is management influence? - how important the influence of management is, particularly the influence of managers in senior positions.

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Derek Stockley conducts in-house customer service training and consulting, see customer service training and consulting.

Derek Stockley and his senior consultants conduct public training courses in both Melbourne and Sydney, Australia.

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